Review: Giselle. Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

A perfectly pleasant experience

Varna International Ballet brings the almost 200 year old ballet of Giselle to Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall.

This two act production, by Adolphe Adam (also known for composing the Christmas carol O Holy Night) starts with the dulcet tones of soothing strings, setting the scene before the curtain rises to reveal a remote forest village where Albrecht, a nobleman in disguise, is drawn to Giselle, a peasant girl. Her mother is not impressed with the match, having hoped Giselle would marry local forester Hilarion. Nevertheless Giselle discovers her love is betrothed to another and kills herself in her madness.

Act two introduces the Wilis, a supernatural gang of ghostly women determined to take revenge on unfaithful men by forcing them into an endless dance. Giselle is unable to watch Albrecht face this fate and protects him until dawn when the Wilis’ power breaks leaving him mourning alone.

The backdrops, designed by Lora Marinova, offer gentle support to the dance action with the beautifully paint-like sunset toned castle a drastic contrast to the eerie graveyard in act two.

Decked in an abundance of tulle, the costumes could do with being a little more distinctive to follow the finer character details but even the least acquainted with ballet should be able to follow the gist of the story.

There’s plenty of meat on Giselle’s character beyond Sergey Bobrov’s revised choreography for Perdita Lancaster to work with, from the dainty and serene young girl, to dramatic manic lover. The same applies to her Albrecht, danced by Vittorio Scolи, as he transforms from cocksure in courtship to tormented by grief but remaining light on his feet and silent throughout and the two really find their groove in their tender pas de deux.

Nahia Barcena is hauntingly poised as Queen of Wilis’, damming these men to their doom.

The corps de ballet is not quite as refined as one would hope, some wobbling and the lack of absolute synchronisation foils the illusion of ballet being effortless.

Conducted by Peter Tuleshkov, the Varna International Ballet Orchestra is splendid. The more playful parts of the score are a particular delight to listen to.

Founded in 1947 and currently celebrating their 75th anniversary, the critically acclaimed Varna International Ballet comes to the UK for the very first time. The company is also performing Swan Lake and Coppélia in Nottingham until Thursday 23rd February, 2023. Find out more here


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